Like many others, I went to see the film. And because I have an affinity for historical epics and sagas, I found the film somewhat enjoyable. But what I did not enjoy were all the liberties taken by the filmmakers in this most recent retelling of the saga of Hugh Glass.
In 1823, while scouting for a fur trapping party, Glass survived a mauling by a grizzly bear in modern day North Dakota, only to be abandoned for dead by his comrades, hundreds of miles from civilization. Thereafter, he recovered, and then crawled more than 200 miles through hostile Indian territory to get his revenge. His fascinating story has been told and retold many times.
Frederick Manfred’s 1954 novel titled Lord Grizzly (which was a finalist for the National Book Award in the year of its release) and Michael Punke’s 2002 novel titled The Revenant (upon which the 2016 film is based and from which the film takes its name) are the definitive works representing the back story on Hugh Glass. And the recent film clearly does not correspond at all with their respective plots.
Indeed, an earlier film version of Glass’ story, Man in the Wilderness, starring Richard Harris, came out in 1971. It is arguably much more faithful to the novels, which themselves appear to be closer to the actual historical story of Hugh Glass than does the 2016 film.
I will not spoil the plot of the 2016 movie for those who have not seen it. But I will state that entire web sites are devoted to pointing out the historical inaccuracies of the film. (See below.) And the biggest difference between the real Hugh Glass and Hollywood's recent treatment of him is the way his whole story ends. The real life ending is quite surprising.
Why do I share this? Because I have always found it important to read the "back story". "Back story" is defined as "background information about a real person or thing that promotes fuller understanding of it". Thus, it will always be important to read the novel upon which the films are based, and even the material upon which the novels themselves are based.
Now this same principle applies to far more significant stories than that of abandoned western scouts. You see, in a little over six weeks, Easter will be here. (It comes early this year.) And invariably, as is so often the case, a barrage of Hollywood films, television documentaries, magazine articles, newspaper stories, and webpages devoted to telling the story of Jesus Christ will come out. This is to be expected as Easter unfolds.
But it will be important to understand that what is presented by these seemingly authoritative sources may not always be an accurate portrayal of the actual person (and work) of Jesus Christ. For this reason, it will be very important to check the back story behind this deluge of material.
And that back story can be found in only one reliable source: the Holy Bible. Here, one will find four definitive accounts of the life and work of Jesus Christ: those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Scholars tell us that these four "Gospels" are actually extremely reliable testimonials to the true life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Of these four accounts, two are firsthand. Matthew and John were members of the original twelve Disciples who knew Jesus personally. The other two, Mark and Luke, were only one generation removed and based their Gospels largely on the information they received from those who had known Jesus firsthand.
So, what is the point? Just this…
In the New testament book of Acts (chapter 217, verse 11), when the Apostle Paul came to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Berea, the Bible says this: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
We would do well today to follow the example of the noble Bereans. That is to say: we would do well to check the Biblical facts that underlie any modern day presentation of the story of Jesus, especially when that presentation comes from a source that has a history of not embracing the story of Jesus as presented in the Holy Bible.
I trust we will do so. For when we do, we may well discover that the real life story of Jesus Christ has a surprising ending - one not often related in modern accounts of His life!
Manfred, Frederick. Lord Grizzly (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1954).
Punke, Michael. The Revenant (New York: Picador Press, 2002).
SEE ALSO: http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/revenant/.